Funerals can be bad news for the environment and there is an increasing call for change as people opt for greener funerals.

The Cornish Funeral Company, run by Katrina and Terry Wagstaff, is now in its tenth year of offering funerals with a reduced environmental impact.

Katrina said: “There are different ways to make a funeral greener, from the obvious choice of which coffin to use to choosing local, sustainable flowers, recycled paper for orders of service and not embalming the deceased.

"A majority of coffins used are still made from MDF, with a wood or foil veneer and plastic handles which aren’t load-bearing. This type of coffin doesn’t decompose well when buried and produces more emissions when burnt.

"We only supply environmentally sustainable coffins made from recycled cardboard or woven materials, such as willow, bamboo, seagrass and banana leaf.

"When clients wish to have a more traditional wooden coffin, we offer a solid paulownia wood coffin - a quick-growing, pollen-producing tree that absorbs more carbon dioxide and emits more oxygen than other species of trees.”

In 2018 The Cornish Funeral Company did the first shroud cremation in Cornwall at Treswithian Downs Crematorium.

Falmouth Packet: An example of a shroud burialAn example of a shroud burial (Image: Cornish Funeral Company)

They say they are the only funeral company in Cornwall to offer shrouds and now use them for direct cremations (unattended) as well as offering them for burial, when the family can choose the colour and decoration.

Initially they bought in the shrouds but now produce their own so as to reduce their carbon footprint further.

“As a society, we’re not good at talking about death but we’ve found that many people are choosing greener and more personal funerals for themselves or their loved ones. We are committed to reducing the negative impact that funerals can have on the environment and use our knowledge to help families choose a greener option," added Katrina.

Recommended by the Natural Death Centre and members of the Association of Green Funeral Directors, the company was highly commended at the Cornwall Sustainability Awards and in 2022 won national Green Funeral Director of the Year.